Google restricts political ads to age, gender, postal code

United Kingdom to have new restrictions imposed within a week due to upcoming general election.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Google has announced a clamp down on the categories it will allow political ads to be targeted against, with only age, gender, and postal code to be used.

The changes are set to be introduced within a week in the United Kingdom due to its upcoming general election, followed by the European Union before the end of the year, and rest of the planet from January 6.

"While we've never offered granular microtargeting of election ads, we believe there's more we can do to further promote increased visibility of election ads," Google Ads VP of product management Scott Spencer said.

"Political advertisers can, of course, continue to do contextual targeting, such as serving ads to people reading or watching a story about, say, the economy."

Google would not allow false claims within ads, Spencer added.

"It's against our policies for any advertiser to make a false claim -- whether it's a claim about the price of a chair or a claim that you can vote by text message, that election day is postponed, or that a candidate has died," he said.

"To make this more explicit, we're clarifying our ads policies and adding examples to show how our policies prohibit things like 'deep fakes' (doctored and manipulated media), misleading claims about the census process, and ads or destinations making demonstrably false claims that could significantly undermine participation or trust in an electoral or democratic process."

From December 3, Google will expand its election advertising transparency reporting -- which currently covers federal US elections, India, and the EU -- to include US state-level elections, ballot measures, and ads that mention federal or state parties.

"All of those ads will now be searchable and viewable as well," Spencer said.

Last month, Twitter announced it was banning political advertising from its platform.

"We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought," Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said at the time.

The stance of Twitter is at odds with that of Facebook, which is maintaining its advertising free-for-all.

"From a business perspective, it might be easier for us to choose a different path than the one that we're taking," Zuckerberg said on Facebook's third quarter earnings call.

"Today is certainly a historical moment of social tension, and I view an important role of our company as defending free expression... In a democracy, I don't think it's right for private companies to sensor politicians or the news."

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